Dallas Under Alien Attack
I was far too young back in 1979 to watch Ridley Scott's "Alien" and it wasn't until the start of the 90s that I finally managed to watch his sci-fi adventure/ horror. That didn't stop it leaving a lasting impression on me as a great movie although somehow I feel the power it must have had on its release in 1979 was softened as technology in cinema had advanced in the years in-between. Despite my feeling that maybe "Alien" was even greater when it was first released there is no denying that it is a great movie, one full of atmosphere and suspense, a movie full of tension as it delivers horror yet also plenty of action which makes it both frightening and exciting. Between the direction of Scott, the wonderful sets, the fabulous special effects and the acting there is little if anything wrong with "Alien".
Making their way back to earth the crew of the mining ship Nostromo are redirected to investigate a possible SOS on a planet. A small group make their way onto the planet where Kane (John Hurt - 44 Inch Chest) discovers row after row of strange leathery eggs with one erupting leaving a strange organism attached to his face. Rushed back to the Nostromo the rest of the crew try to separate this strange creature from their crew mate but that is just the start of their problems as each member of the crew's life is in danger as the creature escapes and evolves.
In many ways the storyline to "Alien" is actually quite simple and not that original, a crew find their spaceship inhabited by a monster intent on killing them isn't that unique. But what is so wonderful about "Alien" is that the storyline grows in every way as we go from a mysterious and quiet start to a powerful battle as the crew of the Nostromo fight for their lives. It is the gradual build up, this slow increase of drama, mystery and action which helps draw you into the storyline and keeps your attention as it gets more and more exciting whilst not skimping on the tension. And there are not so much subplots, but sub sections which work on their own, the scene where Dallas goes through the vents in search of the monster is especially tense, drawing you to the edge of your seats as it reaches a volatile climax. It's because it gives us these clever scenes, these sequences which have a start, middle and impressive end throughout the movie stops it from feeling flat.
But what is also impressive is that whilst the storyline is ultimately simple and grows into an action movie it is also a horror movie. One of the great things is that whilst there are those iconic scenes which work very much on a visual level, with the infamous chest bursting scene being one of the best known and most startling. There are equally a number of scenes which are frightening in a classic way, by not what you see but by the atmosphere than something bad is about to happen. As such it delivers both horror for those who want to be freaked by something in your face but also by those who like the tension delivered by the unexpected.
Part of the reason why it's so tense is the wonderful sets and the interior of the mining ship the Nostromo is excellent. Yes the computer system is a case of many lights, but the darkness and coldness of the tunnels is spectacular. And it is those small touches, the fact that the helmets on the space suits fog up makes it all more real, all more believable because it isn't glossy or overly presented in an easy on the eye manner.
And then there is the acting and like the movie it's not glossy performances, but real. Yes Sigourney Weaver is best known from "Alien" as Ripley, maybe down to those skimpy Marks & Spencer's knickers, but every single actor delivers a brilliant performance. So Sigourney Weaver, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt and John Hurt to name just a few all give great performances. It's the fact that when they deliver dialogue it feels hesitant as if Scott directed these actors to deliver their own dialogue and emotion during a scene rather than just giving them overly worked scripts. It makes a difference because you get a sense of fear, of dread and emotion as things start to go badly wrong aboard the Nostromo.
What this all boils down to is that "Alien" is a very impressive movie, when I first watched it at the start of the 90s I was impressed and watching it now over 30 years since it was first released I am still impressed. Everything about it works from the direction, the sets and special effects through to the rawness of the acting. But it is the way it draws you into the story slowly building an ominous atmosphere, delivering plenty of horror as it builds into a great action movie.